The Easter Monday crowd was kept down by the chilly weather and a couple of heavy snow showers threatened to bring an early halt to proceedings, but the action continued once they had passed through. The ground was Good To Soft and got progressively more tacky as the afternoon wore on.
The Hunt Members had four runners and was effectively a maiden. Euro Lord was never headed in the hands of Simon Walker and came home a distance clear of the only other finisher Swaledale (Steve Charlton). Euro Lord has twice been placed this season since coming over from Ireland, but has been readily swept aside by superior opponents. This weak race was well within his range and he won very easily. Swaledale was suited by the slower pace and considerate handling to at least complete in the money for the first time. The favourite’s main rival Saddlers’ Harmony gave Guy Brewer no chance of staying in the saddle at the 2nd fence.
There were just four runners for the Restricted too. Oliver Greenall is unrecognisable from the raw and inexperienced novice of a couple of years ago and it is inconceivable that he would have been capable of guiding home North Island back then. A badly slipping saddle was brushed off as but a minor irritation here and the pairing safely negotiated the 19 fences to collect with a bit up their sleeve. North Island had taken his maiden at Brocklesby Park in February, a race that hasn’t worked out all that well. His latest fifth in a Corbridge restricted has looked better though in light of the subsequent victories in better company by winner Messager and sixth-placed Anaczar. Keen Whip in second didn’t fail through lack of effort and Richard Wakeham’s mount gave another favourable account of himself as he had in two fiercely contested events earlier in 2008. He wasn’t outpaced until two circuits had been completed and, with time on his side, can find one of these races. Humbel Origins in third is a touch frustrating and, although he takes a keen hold for Mark Walford, he should have something left for the latter stages of his races. He was eased here, but had already weakened tamely, just as he had at this venue a fortnight previously. Humbel Origins is worth another chance as his potential is undeniable. Only three finished.
Eight horses faced the starter for the Mixed Open and there was a first victory in point-to-points for the former inmate of Keith Reveley, Welcome To Unos, with Serena Brotherton aboard. He had a fine record at about two and a half miles under Rules and retains plenty of ability. The course was far more to his liking than the stamina test that Dalton Park provided last week. It would be no surprise to see Welcome To Unos go in again as long as he isn’t given too demanding a task. Runner-up Pikachu Blue (Henry Brooke) again performed solidly and he must surely get his head in front soon. His consistent form on his three outings since a long layoff means he fully deserves a success in the near future. Karatchi set a strong gallop at the head of affairs for Guy Brewer and only gave best from the penultimate obstacle. A bad mistake at the final fence from Karatchi that his rider performed a minor miracle to survive left him hanging on for third. With cut in the ground, this fragile fellow should strip even fitter next time. Trainer Freya Hartley was responsible for both the first and third. Glenelly Gale didn’t do too badly in fourth. Rust En Vrede was by no means out of it when he came to grief at the open ditch, while the ground was against Gollinger. The useful Charlies Memory, a good winner at the previous fixture here, was a warm jolly, but unfortunately broke down approaching the 3rd.
There was a field of 13 for the Confined and Harwood Dale, with Mark Walford in the plate, consented to give his all and carry off the prize. This tricky customer has largely looked a different proposition since he hasn’t been asked to remain prominent from the off and his victory in a hot 20-runner Brocklesby Park restricted last month marked him as a possible improver. Whilst you couldn’t be confident that the horse will put in a similar showing on his next run, he has generally looked significantly more in love with the job in 2008. Lutin Du Moulin under Nathan Moscrop, available at fancy prices, filled second spot. He had been found wanting up to now this year, but there didn’t appear to be any fluke about this. It remains to be seen in the future if he can produce the same again. Alpha Lima and Simon Walker were a respectable third. Alpha Lima had taken a decent restricted at Duncombe Park in February and should continue to make his presence felt at this level. Beau De Turgeon in fourth was just kept at bay by Alpha Lima. He leaves the impression that he has more to offer, but might not be 100%. Monte Cristo did OK having taken a Brocklesby novice riders’ contest last weekend, while Billie John wasn’t disgraced. Be The Tops was in touch when he got rid of Emma Dwyer at the 12th.Clever Nora unsurprisingly got tired following two years off after helping to force the pace. Cop Howe, seeking a fourth win in five starts, seemed to take little interest, jumped stickily and was tailed off from an early stage. This run is best forgotten.
Seven horses went to post for the Maiden and Banners Flying, with Rachel Clark on top, got off the mark at the 20th attempt between the flags. Stamina isn’t his forte and this quite slowly run heat afforded him a decent opportunity, which he took in fine fashion. Sharp courses are in his favour and give him at least a semblance of a chance. He may find it equally difficult to make an impact in restricteds. Runner-up Southern Classic got tapped for toe, but Jacqueline Coward galvanised him into putting in his best work at the death. He was staying on hand over hoof in the closing stages and it would have been very tight in another furlong. Southern Classic is a dour stayer and a longer track will be more up his street. He is entered at Alpraham next weekend and there or another severe test like Heslaker will suit him down to the ground. Third was Knoxhill Archie under Jo Mason. He again displayed glimmers of ability when his jumping was satisfactory. Knoxhill Archie seems to get on quite well with his new rider and can build on this. Modest ex-hurdler Royal Factor in fourth gradually lost ground in the final quarter mile to be ahead of Fast Approaching, who ran a similar race and showed a bit more. Pitchoune appeared held when he slithered to a halt three out. The newcomer The Thack was a nice looker, but was decidedly novicey in the rear. Oliver Greenall worked wonders to keep the partnership intact, not least at the very first fence. The Thack will have derived immense benefit from the outing and will no doubt improve considerably in time.
The Conditions Maiden was for animals that hadn’t finished in the first three in any race and a bumper field of 17 came under orders. Not many stood a strong chance though and few got competitive. It was a debutant, Wasntme, who came out on top. A beautifully judged ride from Freya Hartley saw the five-year-old flying up the run-in to outpoint his always prominent stable companion Dee Cee Bolter and Rachel Clark. Wasntme is a compact individual and was well forward to show what he could do. Wasntme might now head to Doncaster Sales and this race has a habit of turning up above average prospects. Dee Cee Bolter was ridden considerably differently to the previous meeting at Charm Park when he was held up detached from the other runners and couldn’t get involved. He is certainly capable of claiming a maiden. The Marley team train both the first two, who were primed and ready to do themselves justice. Third came American Dream and Jo Foster. American Dream didn’t begin to be shaken off until the turn for home, but kept on nonetheless. American Dream has the right attitude and didn’t do anything wrong against similarly unexposed rivals. He had made a highly pleasing debut at Dalton Park last week and can step up further. Fourth-placed The Real Tom Eoin was bang in contention levelling up for the judge and was only left behind from the final fence. He wasn’t given a hard time. The Real Tom Eoin had looked backward up to then, but now that it is obvious he possesses some ability, he should have a maiden in him. The favourite Mystically was rather one-paced from the second last, but did all right. His jockey Jacqueline Coward will have been disappointed as she would have been the first choice rider on both of the first two. Cherryland was working his way into contention five lengths or so off the lead and still had a squeak of at least a place when he blundered badly at the second last. He was allowed to come home at his leisure thereafter. Lewesdon Prince was fairly green at the back of the pack, while Willybegood is the type to do better with time and experience.